Garfish claim a top position among the most popular monster fish in the aquarium hobby. They are one of the largest freshwater fish belonging to the Lepisosteidae family. The family name Lepisosteus has derived from Greek words which mean “bony scale”.
Mainly there are seven species of Garfish. Among them, Alligator Gar, Spotted Gar, and Florida Gar are the most adapted fish in the aquarium hobby.
Spotted Gar and Florida Gar are somewhat similar in appearance and care levels. Compared to Alligator Gar, they are small in size and easy to manage. Therefore many fish keepers who think about Garfish, prefer Spotted Gars or Florida Gars.
Let’s see how to care for Alligator gars, Spotted gars ,and Florida Gars in aquarium habitats, their diets, tank mates, and more.
Overview of Aquarium Gar Fish
All Garfish species have an elongated body and a pointed snout with needle-like teeth and there can be slight changes of the appearance with different species.
Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is the most famous species of aquarium garfish. Also, they are the largest of the gar family, with a maximum recorded length of over 3 meters. Normally Alligator gar grow up to the weight of 326 lb (148 kg)
Alligator Gars are native to the Central and Southeastern states of the USA and they can be found in various habitats. The Albino version of Alligator gar is known as Platinum Gar.
The Florida gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus) is a mid-sized species of gar found in the USA. As its name suggests Florida gars are mainly based in Florida. Florida Gar can grow over 3 ft (91 cm) in length while weighing 1.36 to 4.36 kg (3.0 to 9.6 lb).
Spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) is the sister species of Florida gar and the smallest in the gar family. They grow up to 2–3 ft (0.61–0.91 m) in length and weigh 4-6 lb (1.8–2.7 kg)
Difference Between Spotted Gar & Aligator Gar?
Both Aligator Gar and Spotted gar get olive green or brown at the upper half of the body and the belly is yellowish-white. The main difference between Spotted gar, compared to Aligator gar is their dark spots all over the body and fins. Alligator gar has no such specific markings and has a clear body.
Both Spotted Gar and Florida Gar have an almost similar appearance and compared to the Alligator gar they are small in size.
What is the Difference between Spotted Gar & Florida Gar?
Because of their similar appearance, Spotted gar and Florida gar are difficult to be identified at once. Therefore in many cases, Florida Gar is sold as Spotted gar in the aquarium hobby.
Checking under the throat of your Florida Gar or Spotted Gar is the only way to be certain of its identity. The isthmus area of a Spotted Gar will contain bony ganoid scales while Florida Gar has not.
Another main difference to identifying Spotted Gar and Florida Gar apart is the length of the head. The Spotted Gar has a much larger distance from the front of the eye to the back of the gill cover. But the Florida Gar has a short distance between the eyes and the gill in comparison to the size of the snout.
Other than that, Spotted Gar has more clear spots all over the body compared to Florida Gar. But in practice, it’s difficult to identify spotted gar solely on the basis of markings. Because in some cases, all of the markings and color patterns observed in real Spotted Gar are also evident in Florida Gar. These similarities may occur due to mixed bloodlines. Also, they can be transitional markings of Florida Gar from juvenile to adulthood.
Can you keep Garfish as a Pet?
Garfish is a popular aquarium fish in the aquarium hobby. But there are some countries in the world and some states in the USA which have prohibited keeping certain species of garfish as pets.
In many cases, there are no constraints for Alligator gar. But in the case of Spotted gar and Florida Gar, there can be constraints because they are known as endangered species.
So you have to check your country’s rules and regulations before getting a garfish for your aquarium. You can simply ask for it from your nearest pet shop too.
Another reason for the ban on garfish is that they can be a threat to endemic aquatic life. Because garfish is one of the most aggressive predatory fish. So it is your responsibility not to put these fish into natural reservoirs.
Tank Conditions for the Garfish (Temperature and PH)
Required water conditions and temperature can be slightly changed with the species of the garfish. So as a common measure for Alligator Gar, Spotted Gar, and Florida Gar,
- Wide temperature range from 24 to 30 degrees Celsius
- PH level of (6 – 8).
- Water hardness (90-447)ppm.
Can Garfish breathe out of water?
When considering the dissolved Oxygen level, garfish can survive even in poorly Oxygenated waters. Gars are considered facultative air-breathers.
They have gills that take oxygen from the water, like a normal fish, but when theOxygen concentration is low in the water, they come to the surface to gulp air into a specialized swim bladder.
Garfish Tank Setup
Garfish live in slow-moving and very dark waters in natural habitats. They usually prefer medium to shallow waters with enough vegetation.
So when setting up the tank for aquarium garfish, it’s better to keep them in ponds other than the glass tanks. As well as, they should be provided with lowlights.
What’s the Best Aquarium size for a Garfish?
Garfish travel miles and miles a day in their natural habitat. So just putting a 2 -foot-long fish in a six-foot-long tank is not right.
Also, garfish aren’t very flexible when it comes to turning around, so you really need a tank that is at least 4 times their length and twice their size in width. For a 3-4 foot gar, something around 500 or 600 gallons is about right.
What Do Gar Fish Eat? (Gar Fish Diet)
Garfish are ambush predators in the wild and eat almost anything that can fit into their mouths. So sometimes in aquariums, it can be difficult to train Garfish to accept dead foods. But don`t worry, after a starvation period, dead foods will eventually be accepted.
Normally in natural habitats 30% of their food includes other small fish, and 40% is shrimp. So feeding an aquarium gar needs lots of protein.
Normally they can be fed with Cut-up Tilapia, Raw shrimp, and worms. Also, if you can train them for pallets, it will be easy to provide necessary Vitamins and other nutrients.
As well, they can be fed with live food too. But it’s also said that once you go with live foods, it’s gonna be tough to come back.
Usually feeder fish, small amphibians, and crustaceans can be given as live foods. But be sure those feeder fish are properly quarantined and haven’t any diseases.
How often should you feed a Garfish?
For juvenile garfish, feed twice a day with enough diet and reduce the frequency when the fish grows up. Usually once a day is enough for a grown garfish. Do not overfeed.
Tankmates for the Gar fish
Tankmates for the aquarium garfish are gonna depend on the specific fish. Because each fish has a different personality. Here is a list of possible tankmates for Aquarium garfish. But be sure to match their sizes before adding them to the community.
- Large Pacu
- Large Catfish
- Large Oscar
- Giant Snakehead
- Indo Tiger
- Other Gar species
Common Diseases of Aquarium Garfish
Garfish is a somewhat hardy fish and easy to maintain with the right attention on time.
But also, there are some sad deals with aquarium garfish. Garfish are somewhat skittish fish. So when they are startled, they just run here and there and try to jump. Then they can be crushed with tank walls or tank decorations and get their spine broken.
So you should deal with them very carefully and try to avoid sudden movements that can panic them.
Also, in some cases, the garfish are affected by spine curving disease.The main reason for this disease is the lack of nutrition and bad water conditions.
Treatments for garfish Spine Curvature Disease
- Keep the right temperature and water conditions with daily water changes of 40%.
- Keep the PH between (7-8)
- Reduce the light level
- Give a healthy diet with enough Calcium
Gar Fish Breeding in Aquariums
Usually female garfish are larger than males and they come to sexual maturity after the first decade of their life. Normally in spring, mature gars get ready for breeding. They prefer a somewhat high temperature for breeding. But it is challenging to be bred in domestic aquariums.
Female gars lay thousands of eggs at a time. And the different species have slightly different preferences about where they lay their eggs. Spotted gar spawn in the weedy backwater or a shallow pool.
Are the Gar eggs Toxic?
Gar eggs are poisonous. People who’ve made the mistake of trying it have got nausea, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Not fatal, but definitely not a good time.
Are Gar Fish Suitable for your Aquarium?
Aquarium garfish will be a perfect addition to a monster fish tank. No matter which species, Alligator gar, Spotted gar, or Florida gar they’re personable, attractive, and hardy fish that can even survive in slight changes in their habitats.
Although they can be aggressive, you can make a perfect monster community with the right tankmates.
The biggest downside of aquarium garfish is their massive size which requires a huge aquarium. But if you could find a Spotted gar or a Florida gar other than the huge Alligator gars, you can slightly avoid that problem.